Kupu Ola

A hands-on outdoor classroom program that utilizes Native Hawaiian traditional planting knowledge, practices, and culture.

Kupu Ola—to bring forth or sprout life—is a project that collaborates with schools P–12 to create outdoor classrooms. The classrooms are located within close proximity to indoor classrooms, creating access to an effective learning opportunity for keiki by bringing cultural and academic lessons together in the outdoor environment. Participants in Kupu Ola learn to appreciate Hawaiian culture and build identity and connection to the land.

Impact Statement

Between 2011 and 2014, twenty-six independent preschools and Department of Education classrooms, serving 567 students participated in outdoor classroom activities at ten different sites created through the help of Kupu Ola. Since 2011, 2,351 parents, children, and community members increased their self-sufficiency by planting over 1,200 furnished plants at their homes. Through Kupu Ola, 131 teachers have increased their knowledge of community and culture-based practices in the last two years.

Learn About the Mighty Onion at Lā Wahi Hānai

Onions are a delicious vegetable and a hearty plant. January 2014’s Lā Wahi Hānai experience focused on the onion. Share your respect for the ‘āina with your ʻohana and make it a monthly opportunity to enjoy each other! Join your neighbors from 8 to 10:30 a.m. every third Saturday of the month at Kupu Ola Nānākuli Elementary School. The next gathering is on Saturday, January 20th. It begins with mālama ‘āina (clean-up) and then moves on to wā a’o (educational time). Dress comfortably and don’t forget a hat, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, appropriate shoes and a water bottle. And, be sure to bring something from your home to share, perhaps papaya, mango, fish, kalo, a song or a story. Learn more

Lā Wahi Hānai Explores
‘Tongue of Fire’

The “Tongue of Fire” plant is from the bean family, which is a wonderful source of complete protein. It was the focus of October’s Lā Wahi Hānai. During October’s event, folks learned how to grow this unique plant and discover the nourishment it offers. Learn more

Lā Wahi Hānai

Please contact Sanoe Marfil at 381-4221 or sanoetw@inpeace.org for Lā Wahi Hānai dates and times.

At the Kupu Ola outdoor classroom on the Nānākuli Elementary School campus, located at:

89-778 Haleakala Ave.
Wai’anae, 96792

Malama ‘Ᾱina- Clean-up
Wā a’o- Educational time

Please Bring/Wear:

Something from your home to share
(Examples: papaya, mango, fish, kalo, banana , songs, or stories.)
Mosquito repellent
Water bottle

What Are the Benefits of Kupu Ola?

Kupu Ola builds and reinforces Native Hawaiian culture, language, and traditions while reestablishing a connection to the land.

Outdoor instruction allows kinesthetic learners to thrive and can be used to teach math, science, literacy, art, and social and emotional skills.

Lessons in applied science are realized. Lessons in math are practiced by charting the growth of plants, measuring rainfall, and counting seeds.

Teamwork is reinforced as educators convey the benefits of taking responsibility for the combined efforts and talents of the class unit.

Learning is related to real life. When plants are harvested, they are eaten, helping students to understand where good food comes from and the labor necessary to get the food on the table.

Why Is Culture-Based Learning Important?

Unfortunately, the achievement gap is real and disproportionally affects Native Hawaiian students. Based on significant research, we know one of the main reasons for this is that the current American classroom is incongruent with the 2,000-year-old highly effective Native Hawaiian education system.

  • Hawai‘i State Assessment tests place Native Hawaiians ten percentage points lower than their peers in reading and math.
  • Absenteeism is a tremendous problem, and 30 percent of Native Hawaiian students fail to graduate from high school.
  • One in five Hawaiians attend special education classes, compared to only one in ten non-Hawaiians.

Cultural-based instruction allows our keiki to build relationships and engage in relevant learning; furthermore, it offers the potential for narrowing, if not closing, the education gap. Kupu Ola is a community development and educational empowerment program.

  • Kupu Ola shows keiki that their actions matter.
  • Kupu Ola taps into the community’s wealth of knowledge.
  • Kupu Ola provides a place for children to develop.

Kupu Ola will help plan and construct the outdoor classroom, provide supplies and materials, and work with teachers to develop effective lesson plans that engage students and help ensure that quality standards are being met.

If you are interested in partnering with Kupu Ola, please e-mail sanoetw@inpeace.org or call (808) 620-9043.

Kupu Ola is funded by the State of Hawai‘i Office Youth Services with some leveraged funding from the USDOE Native Hawaiian Education Program.